Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't Blame the Taliban -- Islam is the Problem?

Malala Yousafzai

As most of my readers are probably aware, Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who harshly criticized the Taliban for closing girls' schools, was recently shot in the head by gunmen sent from that Islamist organization and left critically wounded, an atrocity raising near universal criticism, even in Pakistan. One fascinating article, by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, was rather provocatively titled "Don't blame the Taliban" (Pakistan Today, October 12, 2012), and it says some correspondingly provocative things -- indeed, more than correspondingly provocative, as I shall make clear by bracketed specifications referring to Shahid's intended designation of Islam itself:
The Malala incident is déjà vu times million. You have religious 'extremists' manifesting brutality; the 'educated' class calls the act heinous, the 'intellectuals' label the offenders as beasts, the 'liberals' protest against the 'cowardly act' and while everyone is condemning the act, they remain shushed about the root cause of it all: the ideology.
Does Shahid mean Islamist ideology? No, he doesn't:
Throughout the past every single person who has denounced the Taliban has acted as an apologetic, justifying the religious ideology [of Islam itself!] and claiming how those 'uneducated morons' have 'unfortunately' misinterpreted the teachings of peace and tranquility -- no, they haven't, 'unfortunately' . . . . The poor chaps are only doing what their scriptures [of Islam itself!] -- the ones that the pseudo intellectuals extol, or don't have the cojones to criticize -- tell them to do.
Shahid offers several examples of what he says the Qur'an teaches Muslims and throws them in the face of Muslim liberals who venerate the Qur'an but condemn the very practices and acts that it condones and even exhorts:
When you are being taught, through the scriptures [of Islam itself!] that are universally recognized by the followers as 'authentic', that all the non-believers or threats to the grandeur of your ideology [of Islam itself!] should be killed, you will kill them, where is the misinterpretation here? [Or here:] Finding [ownership of] slaves or slave girls, repulsive; physically assaulting women, disgusting; cutting off hands for theft, inhuman; stoning people to death, beastly and then venerating the ideology [of Islam itself!] that permits this at the same time is hypocrisy of the very highest order. You sit there, criticize and mock the Taliban that follow your religion [of Islam itself!] in its true form while you live in oblivion with your extremely palatable, but simultaneously blatantly fallacious, brand of religion and then claim that the Taliban are misinterpreting and misapprehending your ideology [of Islam itself!]? Oh, the irony.
Shahid points to Islam's history -- in which even Muslim liberals take pride -- as filled with the same sort of atrocity as befell Malala Yousafzai:
The Taliban have defended the attack on Malala Yousafzai through scriptures and historic precedents. You can clamor all you want about how there is a lack of understanding [of Islam itself!] on the part of the Taliban, but how on earth can you refute clear messages of violence and historical evidence -- scribed by historians of your faith [of Islam itself!] -- depicting brutality on the part of some of the most illustrious people in the history of the religion [of Islam itself!]? It is easy to launch vitriol against the Taliban for attacking a 14-year-old girl, but it is also equally hypocritical and pathetic when you eulogize people from your history who did the same in the past, who massacred masses, destroyed lands, pulverized places of worship, raped women, just because they ostensibly did it in the name of your religion [of Islam itself!]. Don't blame the Taliban for following their lead, don't blame the Taliban for using violence as a means to cement religious superiority [of Islam itself!] -- something that has been done for centuries -- don't blame the Taliban for the fact that you don't have the guts to call a spade a spade even though it has been spanking your backside for centuries now.
Shahid calls for liberal Muslims to make a choice:
It's time our 'thinkers' stopped taking the easy way out and finally picked a side. You either follow a religion [of Islam itself!] in its true form or you're irreligious. The Taliban know which side they are on. Do you?
Rather bold. Kunwar Khuldune Shahid speaks like an irreligious 'Muslim' sounding a call to arms against the religion not of Islamism, but of Islam itself! I wonder how long before the Taliban go after him for . . . for . . . for saying that they're being faithful Muslims?

Not that I agree with him, of course . . .

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At 5:29 AM, Anonymous Michael S. Pearl said...


If Shahid had taken account of remarks made by Khaled Abou El Fadl in The Place of Tolerance in Islam, Shahid's article would have been more valid and much stronger. For example, Abou El Fadl says that:

"The Qur'an itself refers to general moral imperatives such as mercy, justice, kindness, or goodness. The Qur'an does not clearly define any of these categories" - what texts, religious, philosophical, or legal do or can? - "but presumes a certain amount of moral probity on [the] part of the reader. ... Ultimately, the Qur'an, or any text, speaks through its reader. The ability of human beings to interpret texts is both a blessing and a burden. It is a blessing because it provides us with the flexibility to adapt texts to changing circumstances. It is a burden because the reader must take responsibility for the normative values he or she brings to the text. Any text, including those that are Islamic, provides possibilities for meaning, not inevitabilities. ... Consequently, the meaning of the text is often only as moral as its reader."

Based upon Abou El Fadl's comments, it would be the lack of "moral probity" rather Islam itself (which probity, he claims, Islam through the Qur'an presumes to be part of the person doing the reading) that is the problem. He focuses his critique on those whom he calls Islamic puritans, but, as some of his interlocutors in that same book suggest, the lack of moral probity is arguably now a matter of religio-cultural convention -- regardless of even what extra-Islamic -- which is to say historical and political factors -- contributed to the development of that convention.

The point is that Shahid could have used the assorted perspectives put forth by Abou El Fadl and other contributors to that book and berated the very same liberals in the name of Islam. That is how a call for reformation - as opposed to obliteration - occurs, not that Shahid prefers reformation. What all this does is also highlight what is probably the weakest part of Shahid's presentation, his very poor understanding of - and lack of imagination regarding - the possibility of interpretation.


At 7:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that Shahid would likely disagree that one can interpret so freely . . . but what do I know?

Thanks, though, for the references . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly, Shahid's idea comes too early for Pakistan, but nicely sums up what happend among the Iranian people during the last 15 years or so.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right about the Iranians, and I'm curious to see where the Pakistanis go with this.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:09 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Is the man trying to martyr himself? "Shahid" means "martyr," after all.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I noticed that little irony . . . but he could always argue that he hadn't said anything wrong -- those who would want to 'martyr' him are the true Muslims, as he himself stated!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffery, just curious, how exactly do you disagree with Shahid? I'm referring to the last sentence in your post... Thanks

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Not that I agree that the Taliban are faithful Muslims. Nor that I disagree. I know too little of either Islam or the Taliban to judge that.

Jeffery Hodges

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